ABOUT ASCENSION THE MUSICAL
THE STORY OF
ASCENSION THE MUSICAL
From the moment I saw their opera in Sydney Australia in 1970, I have admired Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice for the musical and lyrical brilliance of their Rock Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar.
Superstar specifically elected to focus on only one segment of the gospel which ends with Christs’ death on the cross. Andrew and Tim portrayed Christ as a man – no more.
By design therefore, Superstar did not deal with those events recorded as having transpired in and around Jerusalem in the forty days immediately following the crucifixion.
My objective in writing and producing Ascension the Musical is to tell the balance of that story – the final forty days of Christs’ time on earth in accordance with the Gospels. The musical confirms that the story of Jesus Christ, is actually a narrative description of Gods’ visit to earth.
Playwright, Composer and producer
Andre started classical piano at age 6. When he was 13 years old, he fell off a bicycle because of a girl, shattered his elbow and stopped taking classical piano lessons . He wishes he had continued, but, …. he didn’t! He played in a band and taught himself to strum a guitar instead.
However, music was in his blood, inherited from his mother whose opera career was nipped in the bud at age 18 by the Italian declaration of War in 1941, on the opening night of her lead debut in La Traviata in Cape Town South Africa.
Andre has been writing music primarily for his own enjoyment throughout his life and in the 80’s he recorded a few songs in a studio in Cape Town, – but just for fun. Then in the early 90’s he decided it was time that someone completed the continuation of the Jesus Christ Superstar story.
He scripted the first song – “This is Jesus” on the back of a paper placemat, while sitting alone in a restaurant in Montreal in 1995. Over the next few months he wrote the full stage script of the Musical, which at the time he thought he might call “Jesus Christ SuperGod”. He then acquired a very early Roland D20 workstation (synthesizer) which did not yet have midi capabilities, and composed the music for about 2/3 of the songs that were documented in the original play script (dated April 1996). Around that time he also wrote some corporate songs that were performed and presented in “public” forums for Deloitte and Touche and Bell Canada.
But then, as a Chartered Accountant, he became a partner at Deloitte and Touche, working as a Finance operations consultant, and his business life took over completely. So the Jesus Christ musical project was buried deep in storage for 25 years. The play script, the composed music and the D20 were placed in boxes in a storage unit, and not touched again until September of 2019.
In October of 2019, Andre met with his original Cape Town studio producer from the 80’s (Tony Drake), who agreed to support the project as an arranger if Andre decided to resurrect it. Everything then went into overdrive. Andre retaught himself how to use the old D20 with up-to-date Qbase software so as to complete the compositions of all 28 songs in the musical before heading to Cape Town in January 2020, to tackle what turned out to be a far more significant project than he or Tony originally imagined. Co-ordinating over 33 vocalists and instrumentalists in a two-month period required focussed project management skills. Fortunately, all the vocalists completed their studio sessions before the COVID-19 crisis. The Ascension the Musical project was able to meet its Easter 2020 deadline.
ARRANGER AND co-producer
Tony Drake was involved in music from an early age, first studying classical piano, and then moving on to specialize in jazz and rock keyboards.
After school he toured South Africa with various local artists, and spent a few years on the nightclub circuit in the ‘80’s, covering top 40 hits with a 5 piece band.
Tony started doing a lot of session work with internationally recognized South African producer and engineer, Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley, laying keyboard tracks for many top acts, including David Kramer, All Night Radio, Andre De Villiers, Mynie Grove, Wooden Idols, and The Sweatband.
He then settled in to a 9-to-5 lifestyle, became a dad, and worked for 8 years as a hi-tech sales consultant for Paul Bothner Music in Cape Town. He formed his own recording studio, “Lightway Music” in 1996 (originally called ‘The Tracking Station’), and has recorded and produced well over 200 albums for various South African artists.
He has performed on, arranged and recorded various genres and types of music, including radio commercials and Station ID material (KFM and Smile FM), and he scored for a made-for-television documentary with well- known SA personality Nick Taylor.
Tony currently tours and performs with a number of local acts, including The Glenn Robertson Jazz Band, Andre De Villiers, Rocking Horse, and the internationally acclaimed saxophonist, Andrew Young.
Tony also writes music and has produced 6 of his own albums over the last 20 years.
ASCENSION THE MUSICAL is Tony’s first working excursion on a composite, scripted musical, and he found it to be both a challenging, and an extremely rewarding experience.